Museum Exhibit Features African-American Contributions to the Shenandoah Valley | Winchester Star

WINCHESTER – A year-long exhibit at the Shenandoah Valley Museum highlights the African Americans who helped shape the Shenandoah Valley for more than 300 years.

“Contributions: African Americans in the Shenandoah Valley” features the stories of dozens of people who lived in and around Winchester and the artwork, crafts and other items they made or used in their daily life.

“They helped shape the history, the culture,” said Julie Armel, the museum’s deputy director of marketing and communications.

This exhibit is the first offered by MSV that focuses exclusively on the region’s African-American history, she said.

“It’s a recognition and celebration of all accomplishments,” Armel said.

Until January 15, 2023, the exhibit features artifacts from the museum’s collection as well as items on loan from local collectors and artisan families.

Some items, such as paintings and household items, will be on display year-round, while others will rotate for three months, giving the museum more variety while preserving fragile items. which could be damaged if left. sitting in the light too long.

The exhibit was made possible with the support of the MSV Compass Society and exhibit advisors Candace Davenport, Sharon Dixon, Judy Humbert, and Carl Rush.

The big takeaways from the exhibit are the influence of African Americans living and working in the Valley on the local culture, and the inescapable fact that many of them were here because they or their parents were slaves of local families.

“Slavery touches these objects,” Armel said.

“There’s a connection no matter where you look,” agreed Nick Powers, curator of collections at the museum.

On a recent afternoon, guests expressed their admiration for the number of stories the museum had collected and the number and variety of exhibits.

“It’s very informative,” said Ashley Howard, who was from Washington, D.C.[It’s] shed light on the story.

Howard said she was impressed seeing the different types of materials families used in their homes in the 1800s and how difficult it would have been to heat a home.

Commenting on a video of 39 Local Stories that accompanies the exhibit, DC’s Binta Thioye said she loved that it was like stepping back in time to learn about the experiences of people who have done great things.

“Seeing that was actually very encouraging,” she said.

Local faces in the video include Clarke County enslaved Thomas Laws, who later became a Union spy and carried letters in his mouth wrapped in tin that detailed the Confederate general’s troop movements Jubal Early. Information provided by Laws helped ensure Union victory in the Valley.

Another face is John William Dunjee, who was pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in 1869. He was also the financial director of Storer College and published the “Harpers Ferry Messenger”.

Brian Marple, of Augusta, West Virginia, said he enjoyed the historical aspect of the film and the exhibit.

“[It’s] nice to see the appreciation for black history,” he said. “There’s a lot of history in this area.”

Visit the museum at 901 Amherst St., Winchester. The galleries are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through December). Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and youth ages 13-18. Admission is free for ages 12 and under. On Wednesdays, admission to the galleries and gardens is free. For more information, call 540-662-1473 or visit

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